Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rape Culture: Why We Do Have To Point Out The Obvious

From a current, popular YA novel I'm reading:
Twenty minutes later, [he] had wrestled [her] into his bedroom, padlocked the door, and vigorously launched into a nonstop drum solo.
He's done this because he's trying to force her to tell him something, a secret she (um, kind of obviously) doesn't want to share with him yet because she does not feel comfortable doing it. She hates when he plays the drums, mainly because of the extremely loud noise, which is why he bangs on the drums with her locked in the room.
An hour after that they ended up on the roof. [She] had distracted [him] just long enough to escape through his window, but he followed so swiftly that she panicked and scaled the ladder.
"Really? The roof is your getaway plan?" he said teasingly, balancing on the shingles. "Don't you watch horror movies?" He turned around and kicked the ladder away. It fell to the ground with a soft thump.
The author has a problem with exaggeratedly over-the-top use of hyperbole, which really does not help this scene at all. I know she's not trying to say what she's actually saying here. But she's saying it.

The guy wants the girl to do something. The girl doesn't want to do it. So it's okay -- humorous, even -- for him to use physical force to take the girl into his bedroom, PADLOCK the door, and do unpleasant and painful things to her until she does what he wants her to do.

She is so uncomfortable in this situation, she ESCAPES through the window. So he follows her, and knocks the ladder off the roof, trapping her. Here, she finally gives in and does what he wants her to do.

And this scene is supposed to be funny, or cute. There is nothing wrong with the guy doing any of this to the girl; nothing objectionable has happened, because she was going to tell him the thing eventually anyway, right?

Stuff like this is what feeds (or creates) rape culture.

(While I have you here... every time in books, movies, TV shows when the guy kisses the girl, and she looks or acts surprised or shocked or disgusted, but after a few seconds -- during which the guy holds the kiss, generally physically holding on to her and holding her to him, even though the girl is clearly not responding positively and in some cases she's even trying to get him off her -- she eventually "gives in" and kisses him back, yeah, that's rape culture. That's sending a strong message that, guys, if she doesn't immediately want you, you're just not trying hard enough. KEEP PUSHING YOURSELF ON HER!!)

"Oh, it's just a book! Lighten up!"

Books, TV shows, movies send us messages. They do. They model behavior for us, and we internalize those messages (subconsciously, which is why you don't realize it). What's described above is so effed up if you take a second to think about it. But it's been so normalized by the media we don't even think about it. The kiss scenario? It happened in Ratatouille. A kids' movie about a mouse that cooks. And the guy wasn't even really trying to kiss the girl -- the rat makes him kiss her to keep him from telling her the secret. Even when you don't even want to kiss the girl, it's okay to force yourself on her and kiss her against her will. (Ah, yes, The Little Mermaid's "Kiss the Girl"... ugh, do I have to spell that one out for you? Google the lyrics and read them, without the music or the funny crab's accent.)

If you see nothing wrong with the scene quoted above, then you see nothing wrong with physically trapping another person in a closed space and inflicting pain on that person until that person does what you want hir to do.

If you see nothing wrong with physically trapping another person and inflicting pain on that person until that person does what you want hir to do, then why would you think rape is wrong?

This is what we're talking about when we say we need to teach people not to rape. Before we can teach people that rape is wrong, we need to make sure they understand what rape is.

We're not talking about the mythical stranger in the dark alley waiting for the drunk girl with the short skirt and her hair in a long ponytail walking alone in a bad part of town alone late at night -- that guy knows what he's doing is wrong, he just doesn't care.

The good news is, very few rape cases involve the violent stranger in the dark alley (the guy who knows it's wrong but does it anyway, the guy who won't be deterred by prevention campaigns or laws or prison sentences). Most of them involve the dude at the bar, the guy who asked you out on a date, the uncle or older cousin you see once a year at the annual family reunion, your coworker, your boss, your teacher, the guy in your economics class who crashed your friend's party, your neighbor... you know, those guys. Guys who are "nice guys," who would never do something "bad," who would never "hurt" a girl... Wait, what? Lock her in a room with me until she agrees to do what I want her to do that she has clearly expressed she does not want to do? Well, yeah, I'd do that... but that's totally different!! Um, right?

No, it's not. And that's why we're talking about it. This is what we're talking about.

We're talking about the "nice guy" who tries for the third time tonight to rub his hands on his date's thigh, even though she has pushed his hand away every time and keeps inching away from him.

We're talking about the guy who tells himself she's just "playing hard to get" when she says no and pushes him away.

We're talking about the guy who thinks that because she didn't "affirmatively say no" (because she was too drunk to say anything), that's good enough and he can go ahead and have sex with her.

We're talking about the guy who looks at a girl who's passed out and thinks it's okay, that it's funny, to post photos and video of her online saying she's "so raped."

We're talking about the guy who thinks it's funny to make jokes about rape. And we're talking about all the guys who will jump in to defend that guy when he gets called out for saying, "Wouldn't it be funny if, like, five guys raped her right now?"

We're talking about explaining how all of these things create and perpetuate rape culture. How they excuse proto-rapist behavior. How they lead to rape scenarios, and to your bros encouraging you to act in rapey ways.

I'm sorry if it makes you "uncomfortable." I'm sorry if it bothers you if you see at least part of yourself in the descriptions above. Sometimes, that's exactly what we need in order to see clearly, to motivate us to make positive changes.

And I know you know better than to imply that your discomfort should in any way supersede or dismiss the pain and torture of being a victim of sexual assault... right?

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Beyoncé Super Bowl Performance Photos

Dear Internetz:


Have you never asked someone to not post an unflattering photo of you, one they took when you were in the middle of saying something or chewing? Have you never heard someone ask you to not post an unflattering photo of them?

Yes, I know... you're a cesspool of misogyny and sexism, partly because so is much of our society, but also because you make anonymity so easy and anonymity so easily leads to assholery.

But, really, y'all. Those photos? The ones the publicist, DOING HER JOB, "respectfully [asked] you to change" (not "remove from the Internet," which is A) impossible and B) a stupid thing to ask)?

Why are you sharing them?

Does it seem UNREASONABLE that her publicist would ask that these photos not be posted?

They're crappy photos. She's in the middle of a performance, in the middle of singing a song. She's a good performer, and she's singing the song with passion and expression -- you know, the way kind of have to if you want to perform it well. Oh, and she's doing this whole dance routine at the same time, too. Something else she's doing with passion and expression, because she wants it to be good. Which it is.

Pick a famous or talented artist, I bet you anything at one point in their career someone took a photo where that artist was making a face as ugly as this one, or worse. 

A good photographer, one who happens to be good at hir craft and also happens to be a decent human being, looks at those photos and deletes them, because they're crappy photos. The asshole who took this one, however, thought he could get money (or something?) out of it, so he posted it.

It's really sad to see all the lemming assholes following suit.

Don't be that asshole. Knock it off. You're better than that, Internetz. Please try, just a little bit. Try to be decent human being, I know you have it in you, somewhere, deep down in there...

It would be so nice, dear Internetz, if we could pretend you learned something from a previous, related incident. Were you paying attention? You should have been. Luckily, one of the beauties of you, Internetz, is that you preserve moments (not just the crappy ones), so we can always go back and revisit something we may have missed. Go back, watch the video, listen to what Anne Hathaway says. Let's see if we can get that to sink in.



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Musings on Mass Shootings, Part 3: Being "Shocked"

I was chastised on FB for posting that I was not "shocked" or "surprised" about the shooting in Connecticut.

Things that happen all the time are not shocking. And, the more I've thought about it, the angrier I've gotten at everyone who has expressed "shock" at what happened.

When you say you are "shocked" about the shooting, you are feeding the myth that events like this are rare, unexpected, isolated events.

They are not.

Something that happens six times in one year is not rare. Gun deaths are not unexpected in this country. They happen so much, we don't even bother reporting them or talking about them half the time. When something big enough that it will make a good ratings-grabbing story happens, we plaster that all over the news (until something shinier comes along, which generally happens in a day or two). Dude, a bunch of little kids had something bad happen to them? Wow! People love that stuff!! Shove cameras and mics in some kindergartners'  faces STAT!! (I have purposefully avoided coverage of this story because, well, that coverage would be on the news, and I'm not playing their disgusting game, but given that this school was in Connecticut, I wager the majority of the people affected are, um, lighter-skinned, no? But that's another blog post.)

This was not something "shocking." It was something horrible. It was something tragic. 

But it was something that happens way too often.

We shouldn't be "shocked." Maybe the first few times, yeah. But by this point? If you're still "shocked," you're not paying attention, and I need you to pay attention.

By this point, you need to be enraged. You need to be outraged. And you need to DO something about it.

Holding yet another candlelight vigil isn't going to do anything. We've done those, nothing's changed.

Arguing about gun control isn't going to do anything either, because instead of talking about things, people start screaming about ridiculous extremes and we never talk about the actual issues, the actual problems, or the actual possible solutions. (Isn't it nice to know the reproductive rights debate isn't the only one who suffers from this particular ailment?)

Arguing about gun control isn't useful either because gun control (or lack thereof) isn't the only problem.

We need to talk about out attitude toward violence, particularly gun violence. What do we choose to put on TV? What do we choose to put in our movies? What do we put in magazines? What does our language reflect? What do our expressions reflect? How do we talk about violence?

We also seriously need to change how we talk about mental health. Can we please stop using "crazy" and "insane" as insults or pejoratives? Can we stop pinning "inspirational" crap about how if you're depressed you're holding on to your past instead of looking to your future, or that you're not praying enough? Can we stop telling people that they're only feeling "depressed" or "sad" because they don't eat enough organic food or aren't exercising enough or the right way? Can we stop blanket vilifying medication, or the need for it? Can we openly talk about mental health? About needing help? About getting help?

Or, and on that note... can we please give people access to that help? Insurance coverage for mental health, and enough time off from work to go to therapy weekly if that's what the person needs? Hey, I need to leave early one day a week, or come in late one day a week, or take an extra-long lunch one day a week. I'll be happy to make up the time by staying late one a day a week, but I need the ability to have that flexibility in my schedule, without you ridiculing me or harassing me about it. Because, seriously, what's going to change if I stay late on Wednesdays and come in late on Thursdays? How different is that from leaving on time every Wednesday and coming in on time every Thursday? I'm working the same amount of hours. Allow the flexibility. Find a time that works for the employee and the employer, but find that time without creating a hardship for the employee.

Don't be "shocked." When you're "shocked," you just stand there.

Be angry. Angry people get stuff done. Let's fix this problem.